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    Taking Steps to Prevent Tenant Displacement and Homelessness

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large

    As the Bay Area struggles with rising rents, homelessness, and displacement, we must continue to create and implement policies to protect our residents. As Oakland’s Councilmember At-Large, I have recently authored a series of tenant protection measures aimed at preventing displacement and solving our growing homelessness crisis.

    The Oakland City Council unanimously passed my Uniform Relocation Ordinance, which provides relocation payments to tenants displaced for owner or relative move-ins, as well as tenants who are displaced by condominium conversions. Tenants who do not have adequate funds to move and who are forced to move by no-fault evictions, face displacement and great hardship, including an increased risk of homelessness.

    Displaced tenants can incur substantial costs relocating. These may include needing to pay first and last month’s rent as well as a security deposit for new housing and moving costs. They may also lose work time while seeking housing and experience additional challenges. My Ordinance helps to mitigate these hardships by requiring landlords to pay $9,875 to those evicted from three or more bedroom units, $8,000 to renters evicted from two-bedroom units, $6,500 to people evicted from studios or one-bedroom units, and an additional payment of $2,500 per unit for households with low-income, elderly or disabled people.

    The Oakland City Council also unanimously passed the proposed moratorium on the Substantial Rehabilitation Exemption to rent control, authored by myself and Councilmember Kalb. This moratorium seeks to end abuses of the law, and minimize the displacement of tenants unable to afford the higher rents that owners charge after units are removed from the rent control program through the substantial rehabilitation exemption.

    Oakland’s laws on this have been the least protective in our State, allowing housing to become exempted from rent control if an owner spends fifty percent of the average basic cost for new construction on the property. Numerous residents, however, have notified the City that this exemption is being abused, that expenses unrelated to improving the unit have been included, and that their rents will increase to unaffordable levels if such exemptions are granted, forcing them out of their homes. By imposing this moratorium, for 180 days, on new substantial rehabilitation petitions and exemptions, we now have the opportunity to consider modifying and strengthening our protections for the long term.

    When residents are pushed out of our city, the negative impacts hurt all of us. Displacement not only causes disruption and hardship to the individuals and families directly involved, but it also undermines the bonds of our neighborhoods and community. The harms weaken our core institutions needed for a well-functioning society, as rising rents and increasing displacement have made it harder for our schools to attract and retain teachers, and we are losing nurses for our hospitals, and other vital workers. 

    The most recent data on homelessness in our area also found that the majority of people living homeless in our community are from here, and became homeless most often due to economic forces, such as evictions. As we work to strengthen our response to help those who have already become homeless, part of the solution also needs to include preventing more people from becoming displaced. 

    Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide Councilmember; she was re-elected in 2016. She also serves on the Board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and as the Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC).